Workers Hammer No. 211
Down with anti-communist law in Poland!
On 8 June, the day the Polish government’s anti-communist law took effect, protests against this draconian ban on the dissemination of “communist symbolism”, took place in Warsaw and London. The Warsaw protest was called by the Communist Party of Poland (KPP); the London demonstration was called by members of the Young Communist League (YCL) who were joined by members of the British branch of the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE) and members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union executive. The Spartacist League/Britain formed a contingent in the London protest, carrying signs in English and in Polish saying “Down with the anti-communist ban”.
We also carried signs in Polish indicating our opposition to the Polish state’s all-sided reaction, including: “Full democratic rights for homosexuals! Down with anti-Semitism! For free abortion on demand! For women’s liberation through socialist revolution!” Other signs in Polish included: “For unconditional military defence of China, North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam against imperialist attack!” as well as a slogan “1981: we called to smash Solidarność counterrevolution!” In addition to a sign in Polish calling for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, we made clear our revolutionary internationalist opposition to racism directed against Polish immigrants in this country in a sign that opposed the chauvinist “British jobs for British workers” crusade on Britain’s construction sites. The sign in English read: “Unions must defend immigrant workers! Down with reactionary strikes against foreign workers!”
As our comrades joined the protest, the YCL contingent abruptly abandoned the very demonstration they had initiated rather than join in a united protest with Trotskyists. Political debate is alien to these Stalinists, who are incapable of answering our polemics. What we say in the article below regarding the KPP in Poland also holds true for the British YCL and the Greek Stalinists — what they mean by “communism” is “not the proletarian internationalism of Marx and Engels and the Bolsheviks but its nationalist antithesis, codified in the Stalinist dogma of ‘socialism in one country’”. We refer our readers to the article “Workers protests rock Greece”, (page 12) for an exposé of the real programme of the Greek Communist Party, which combines militant class-against-class rhetoric with blatant adaptation to Greek nationalism, echoing the Greek bourgeoisie’s hysteria against Turkey.
We reprint below a translation of an article that originally appeared in Spartakist no 183 (May 2010), newspaper of the Spartakist Workers Party of Germany, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).
On 8 June, Poland’s right-wing government is set to implement an amendment to the penal code criminalising the dissemination of “communist symbolism”. Signed into law by the late president Lech Kaczyński last autumn after a virtually unanimous vote in the Parliament, the new measure mandates up to two years in prison for anyone who “produces, perpetuates, or imports, stores, possesses, presents, carries or sends a printout, a recording or other object” carrying “fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbolism” for other than “artistic” or “research” purposes. As against the grotesque circus of “national unity” orchestrated in the wake of the arch-reactionary president’s death, the ban underlines that the interests of the proletariat are counterposed to those of all wings of the Polish bourgeoisie. Having presided over the devastation of the lives and livelihoods of millions of working people in the past two decades, Poland’s capitalist rulers now seek to criminalise anything pointing to the only solution to the plight of the working masses, the oppression of women, the imperialist exploitation and war and the anti-Semitism, chauvinism and bigotry that are endemic to capitalism: international proletarian revolution and the creation of a global socialist, egalitarian society.
The Polish ban is one of a spate of such measures threatened or implemented by capitalist governments in Eastern Europe since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the bureaucratically deformed workers states. Hungary imposed a ban on communist symbols in 1993, as did Lithuania in 2009. There are moves afoot for similar bans in Estonia, Latvia and elsewhere. In 2007, the Czech government outlawed the Communist Youth Union because it called for social ownership of the means of production. More recently, Czech reactionaries have demanded that the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, the third-largest parliamentary party, be outlawed as well.
Such blatant censorship is an embarrassment to the “democratic ideals” hypocritically espoused by bourgeois liberals. In 2008, the European Court of Human Rights overturned a prison sentence meted out in 2004 to Attila Vajnai, one of the leaders of the ex-Stalinist Hungarian Workers Party, for wearing a red star. And in January, a Czech court ordered the legalisation of the Communist Youth Union.
It is an indictment of the ex-Stalinist social democrats of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) that its deputies in the Sejm, the lower house, having initially opposed the anti-communist amendment, then joined in voting for the legislative package that included the ban. Such opposition to the ban as SLD MPs have expressed is confined to the legalistic framework of the Constitutional Tribunal.
Whether ultimately deemed “unconstitutional” or not, the purpose of such measures is to regiment the population and to intimidate all those who seek to fight against the injustices and ravages of capitalism. As George Toussas of the Communist Party of Greece aptly put it in a 3 December statement in the European Parliament, the Polish ban is “an act of provocation aimed at prosecuting anyone who offers resistance and fights for a better future”. Poland’s rulers will certainly not hesitate to attack as “communists” supporters of the SLD and other leftist groups or workers who engage in militant strikes and demonstrations. It is in the direct interest of every socialist, every trade unionist, every organisation representing workers, women, gays, Jews, Romas [Gypsies], immigrants or other minorities — in Poland and internationally — to oppose this reactionary legislation.
The Nazi Holocaust: we will not forget!
The drawing of an equal sign between fascism and communism by the reactionary ruling cabals of Eastern Europe is grotesque. Communism, as exemplified by the Bolshevik party of Lenin and Trotsky and the Polish-Jewish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, expresses the historic and internationalist interests of the proletariat, based on the understanding that in liberating itself from capitalist exploitation and oppression, the working class must sweep away class society as a whole and construct a global order in which the nation-state and all forms of social oppression have been eliminated once and for all. Fascism, defined by ultranationalism, is a form of capitalist rule in extremis: when it feels its power and profits sufficiently threatened by an insurgent proletariat, the bourgeoisie finances the mobilisation of enraged petty-bourgeois and lumpen mobs to crush the workers movement under the iron heel of genocidal social reaction. Fear and hatred of Communism has always been a central pillar of fascist ideology. For example, Hitlerite Germany’s 1936 agreement with the Japanese militarists was called the “Anti-Comintern Pact”.
The truth of the matter is that the anti-communists who today denounce “totalitarianism” by and large stood with the Nazis against “Jew-Bolshevism”. Baltic nationalists openly declare themselves to be the heirs of the likes of the Estonian Forest Brothers, who abetted the Nazi Holocaust of millions of Jews, Roma and Soviet citizens. And the architects of Polish Solidarność, which spearheaded the drive for capitalist restoration throughout the Soviet bloc, drew inspiration from nationalist, anti-Communist antecedents such as interwar dictator Jozef Pilsudski, who presided over a panoply of discriminatory measures against Jews, and the virulently chauvinist, overtly anti-Semitic National Democrats (Endeks).
While many Polish workers courageously opposed anti-Semitism as a tool of bourgeois reaction, the vast majority of Polish nationalists not only did nothing to fight against the Nazi “final solution” but, as with the Endeks, actually welcomed it, joining in pogroms of Jews both before and after Poland’s liberation by the Soviet Army. In 1991, Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, a former Solidarność activist, declaimed that “45 years of communism had caused more damage to Poland than the Nazi occupation”. (This beneficiary of “reborn” Polish capitalism is also known for saying: “The first million has to be stolen.”) To Bielecki and his ilk, the slaughter of three million Polish Jews (as well as Roma and nearly three million other Poles), whose numbers included a large and vibrant component of the multiethnic revolutionary workers movement, was not at all “damaging”.
In conjuring up allegations of tens of millions of victims of Communism, Polish reactionaries take a page from The Black Book of Communism published in France in 1997, which in turn borrowed not a little from the demented ravings of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Stéphane Courtois, the editor of the Black Book, railed in his introduction that “a single-minded focus on the Jewish genocide in an attempt to characterize the Holocaust as a unique atrocity has also prevented an assessment of other episodes of comparable magnitude in the Communist world”.
Echoing this disgusting filth, the European Parliament last year proclaimed 23 August, the anniversary of the 1939 pact between Hitler and Stalin that preceded the Nazi invasion of Poland and led to its division into German- and Soviet-dominated areas, as a “Europe-wide Remembrance Day for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes”. In fact, the roles played by Germany and the Soviet Union in Poland in 1939-41 only underlined the profoundly different class foundations of the two countries. While the Soviet forces in eastern Poland encouraged the expropriation of the capitalists and large landowners, the Nazis in western Poland erected concentration camps for leftist workers and intellectuals and corralled the Jews into ghettos. As Leon Trotsky succinctly noted in a January 1940 article directed against a “Third Camp” opposition led by Max Shachtman that had reneged on defence of the Soviet Union, “Why was it chiefly revolutionists, ‘democrats,’ and Jews who fled from there [Nazi-occupied Poland], while in eastern Poland — it was chiefly the landlords and capitalists who fled?” (Trotsky, “From a Scratch to the Danger of Gangrene”, In Defense of Marxism).
From the standpoint of proletarian internationalism, a diplomatic agreement with German imperialism was no different in principle from Stalin’s earlier, and later, agreements with the “democratic” imperialists of France, Britain and the US. The real crime of the Stalin regime was its conciliation of imperialism in the name of building “socialism in one country”, which meant betraying proletarian revolution, as in Spain and France in the mid 1930s. Stalin’s beheading of the Red Army in the bloody purges of the late 1930s served to critically undermine the military defence of the Soviet degenerated workers state when Hitler’s armies invaded in June 1941. But, despite Stalin, the Red Army went on to smash Nazi Germany. Genuine Bolsheviks, including the Polish Trotskyists who went to their deaths in the Warsaw Ghetto, fought for the unconditional military defence of the Soviet Union while opposing all the imperialist combatants, including the “democratic” Allied powers, for whom World War II was a struggle for redivision of colonies and spheres of exploitation. And we honour the 600,000 Soviet soldiers who died liberating Poland from the Nazi scourge.
From Walesa to Kaczyński, Solidarność and its heirs have always made an anti-Soviet cause célèbre of the 1940 Katyn massacre of Polish military officers near Smolensk, Russia. As we wrote in a 1981 article in Workers Vanguard: “Revolutionary Marxists do not support the indiscriminate killing of the bourgeois officer caste any more than that of factory owners or bourgeois politicians. (Those personally responsible for crimes and atrocities against the working masses are another matter; they will certainly be subject to revolutionary justice.) Nevertheless, Katyn is not a crime against the Polish working people. These were the military officers of a fascistic, anti-Semitic dictatorship which regularly butchered workers and even bourgeois dissidents” (“Pilsudski and Counterrevolution in Poland”, Workers Vanguard no 293, 20 November 1981).
Anti-Communism and anti-Semitism were part and parcel of Polish nationalism from well before the Hitler-Stalin pact. Almost from the moment of its birth in December 1918, the Polish Communist Party was banned in “independent” capitalist Poland (which was in fact utterly dependent on French and British imperialism). Throughout the party’s existence, until its dissolution by Stalin in 1938, the heroic Polish Communists who fought underground for the cause of the proletariat were subjected to imprisonment, torture and murder. Against nationalists of all stripes, we proclaim the historic slogan of the Communist International of Lenin and Trotsky: For the revolutionary unity of the Polish, Russian and German proletariat!
Anti-communism: spearhead of social reaction
The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Polish deformed workers state and the restoration of capitalist class rule in 1989-90 ushered in widespread unemployment and immiseration and the intrusion of anti-Semitic and anti-woman Catholic reaction into every sphere of society. Millions of women were driven out of social production and forced back into the stifling confines of the kitchen. The unconditional right to abortion was overturned; day-care facilities for children were eliminated; secular education and the separation of church and state were demolished as crucifixes and religious instruction were imposed on schools. For large numbers of working people, the “magic of the market” meant emigrating abroad in an attempt to secure some sort of livelihood.
Anti-communism goes hand in hand with broader social reaction. This is exemplified by the fact that the current anti-communist ban is linked to measures aimed against pornography, sexual activity involving youth under the age of 15 and other such “crimes without victims”. These measures are linked to a vile witch hunt targeting the right of adults and youth to engage in mutually consensual sexual relations, with the Polish bourgeoisie screaming for paedophiles to be imprisoned and “chemically castrated”. We are against any government intrusion into consensual sexual relationships. Down with the criminalisation of paedophilia! Down with the reactionary concept of “age of consent”! Priests, cops and prosecutors out of the bedroom! For the unrestricted right to abortion — Free abortion on demand!
The proposed ban on communist symbols would generalise and legitimise the reactionary vendetta that has been a hallmark of capitalist restoration in Poland. The right wing continues to pursue a witch hunt against the former Stalinist officials of the People’s Republic of Poland. Earlier this year, the government cut pensions for former employees of the old state security apparatus, including even office cleaners and clerks. Wojciech Jaruzelski, who stood at the head of the Stalinist regime that suppressed a counterrevolutionary bid for power by Solidarność in December 1981, is again on trial on criminal charges. Former ZOMO anti-riot police last year received prison sentences of up to six years for the shooting deaths of nine miners in Katowice during the 1981 state of emergency.
Jaruzelski is being tried by the wrong class for the wrong crimes. For proletarian revolutionaries, the suppression of Solidarność counterrevolution was no crime. From the moment Solidarność consolidated around an open programme of capitalist restoration at its first national congress in September 1981, we Trotskyists declared: Stop Solidarność counterrevolution! (see Spartacist pamphlet, Solidarność : Polish Company Union for CIA and Bankers). In this we were opposed by an alliance ranging from the Vatican and the CIA to the German Social Democracy (SPD), the New York City teachers union of Albert Shanker and Yetta Barshevsky (Max Shachtman’s widow) and the bulk of the fake-Trotskyist left. We fought for a proletarian political revolution to replace Stalinist misrule with the rule of democratically elected workers soviets committed to a perspective of international proletarian revolution. We condemned the Polish Stalinist bureaucracy for its betrayals, for its nationalism and conciliation of imperialism abroad and the church at home, for its lies and bureaucratism, which ultimately drove much of the historically pro-socialist proletariat into the arms of clerical reaction in 1980-81. Then in 1989-90, the Stalinists sold out the deformed workers state to Solidarność and its imperialist backers. We say: Hands off Jaruzelski and other former Stalinist officials!
In a creditable protest against the anti-communist ban posted on its website (kompol.org, 26 September 2009), the Communist Party of Poland (KPP) stated: “We strongly oppose efforts to equate fascism — which, based on racism, led to the bloodiest war in history thanks to the implementation of a plan to exterminate millions of people — with communism, which is built on the principles of social justice, and which defeated the genocidal fascists thanks to the utter dedication to struggle and sacrifice of countless millions of men, women and children. Despite even the most brutal repression we will not stop in our struggle for the victory of socialism, nor turn from the road to a victorious communist destiny!”
But what the KPP means by “communism” is not the proletarian internationalism of Marx and Engels and the Bolsheviks but its nationalist antithesis, codified in the Stalinist dogma of “socialism in one country”. In their own ways, the SLD and the KPP are both decomposition products of the former Stalinist bureaucracy and its sham “people’s democracy”. Where the SLD exalts (capitalist) “democracy”, the KPP glorifies Stalin.
Unlike reformists and liberals, we do not call on the bourgeois state to ban the fascists. Such calls, premised on illusions in the good offices of bourgeois democracy, will inevitably be used against the left and the workers movement, which is the main target of capitalist state repression. For instance, a law criminalising a fascist group in West Germany in the early 1950s was used a few years later to ban the Communist Party there. And a recent Czech court ruling banning the fascist “Workers Party” is now providing further ammunition to those who want to ban the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. We look to the mobilisation of the proletariat, standing at the head of all the potential victims of fascist terror, to sweep the fascists off the streets.
While the class rule of the bourgeoisie is not threatened right now, the world recession underlines the truth of Marx’s analysis that capitalism is a crisis-ridden system. The right-wing parties governing Poland have been in power for a number of years. But Poland is hardly a stable bourgeois democracy, and though socialist revolution is not imminent, this decadent, third-rate bourgeoisie has good cause to fear a reawakening of the once pro-socialist Polish proletariat. Notwithstanding that sections of the working class had been intoxicated by clerical-nationalist Solidarność , when the first Solidarność government tried to implement its “free market” attacks on the working class in 1990 it was met by a wave of strikes and was soon replaced by a government led by the socialdemocratic SLD. Even now, despite 20 years of official anti-Communist hysteria in every sphere of public life, half the population continues to support the December 1981 state of emergency imposed by Jaruzelski. “God, Honour and Fatherland”, the watchwords of Polish reaction, ring hollow to a generation of youth raised amid the glorification of capitalist greed and fawning capitulation to the NATO imperialists.
Those looking for a way out of the stultifying dead end of this decaying capitalist order will find it in the authentic communism of the Three L’s — VI Lenin, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. As the 1990 founding statement of the Spartacist Group of Poland, section of the International Communist League, stated (Spartacist [English-language edition] no 45-46, Winter 1990-91):
“A Trotskyist party must be a tribune of the people, championing all victims of oppression. The drive to restore capitalism revives and intensifies all the ‘old crap’ of the prewar social order, from reactionary clericalism to Pilsudskiite nationalism and anti-Semitism....
“Polish Trotskyists must seek to reclaim the best traditions of the Polish workers movement, forged in the struggle against national chauvinism. This is exemplified by Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish Jewish communist and leader of the revolutionary German proletariat. Reviling Luxemburg for her internationalism, Stalin never trusted and finally liquidated the Polish CP, which was the first to come to the defense of comrade Trotsky by asserting in 1923 that ‘the name of Comrade Trotsky is insolubly connected with the victory of the Soviet Revolution, with the Red Army, with communism’.”
Down with the anti-communist ban! Forward to a red Poland of workers councils as part of a Socialist United States of Europe! Reforge Trotsky’s Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution!n